Linguistics Professor Vaux Stays for One More Year

After saying there was a “good chance” last spring that he would leave Harvard because he did not believe he would be recommended for tenure, Associate Professor of Linguistics Bert Vaux has returned this fall and will continue to serve as the department’s head tutor.

Vaux had hoped to leave for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) because he said Linguistics Chair Jay H. Jasanoff told him the department would not be seeking a tenured professor in Vaux’s field of phonology, the study of sounds in speech.

But Vaux said Harvard required him to decide whether he would return by June 1—before he knew whether a position would be available at UWM—causing him to change his plans.

UWM had instituted a hiring freeze last spring that did not end until this July, when Wisconsin’s state legislature approved a budget that included funding for University of Wisconsin schools.

Vaux is a favorite of many students in the department—the number of concentrators in linguistics has more than doubled since 1999, when Vaux became head tutor.

After he e-mailed concentrators with information about his tenure case last February and outlined actions they could pursue on his behalf, 17 students met to discuss how to aid him.

Several wrote letters supporting Vaux to University Hall.

In addition to continuing to serve as the department’s head tutor, Vaux will again teach his two primary lecture courses, Social Analysis 34, “Knowledge of Language,” and Linguistics 80, “Dialects of English.”

While the linguistics department has not formally decided whether it will recommend Vaux for tenure, Vaux said he still believes it highly unlikely that he will be put up for review.

He said he will explore his options, including those at UWM.

Despite the end of the hiring freeze at UWM, Vaux said he does not have a standing offer for a tenured position there.

Linguistics concentrator Sarah A. Hyman ’04 said she is looking forward to taking Linguistics 80 and said Vaux was a “great adviser.”

Jasanoff said there was “nothing to report” about the progress of Vaux’s case and that he could not comment on its details.

Staff writer Dan Rosenheck can be reached at